Another holiday, another mass shooting, this time at the University of California at Santa Barbara where 22 year old Elliot Rodger fatally stabbed and shot six students. As the normal news cycle plays out (scene footage, reaction sound bites, family and friends grief and outrage), it has become commonplace for there to be a suspect manifesto, or in this case, a You Tube video. Add Elliot Rodger to the growing list. He made a video and it is clear he believed it would get plenty of air time. It has. The news media has taken the bait.
So what did the video tell us? Rodgers was consumed with hatred? Yes. He was frustrated with women? Yes. He is sick? You bet. But airing his rants, did it really advance the story? The news media could easily paraphrase the shooters mental state without airing the video and in the process, take away the “fame” motivation for any of these sick individuals looking to go out plastered all over the news.
This is a complex issue with many moving parts. Society needs to take a hard look at gun availability, mental health support, security and a host of other issues and ask ourselves, are we really doing enough? The media needs to do the same. All it takes is for one outlet to step up and say, “it is now our policy to longer air any videos or letters written by a suspect in a mass shooting because we believe it was the intention of the suspect to gain some level of fame by doing so”. This policy is not foreign. Most news outlets have similar policies for suicides.
Do the right thing. You just may build some much needed respect and credibility in the process.